Original URL: http://www.azstarnet.com/star/wed/31029NKids-MediaImmersion.html

Study associates heavy TV use with small kids' reading delays
October 29,  2003
by Siobhan McDonough

WASHINGTON - One-third of children 6 and younger have TVs in their rooms and a similar proportion live in homes where a television is on most or all the time, a study says.

Tuesday's report, based on a survey of parents by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Children's Digital Media Centers, also found that kids 6 months to 6 years spend about two hours a day watching television, playing video games or using computers.

That's roughly the same amount of time they spend playing outdoors and three times as long as they spend reading or being read to.

In those "heavy TV households," 34 percent of children ages 4 to 6 can read, compared with 56 percent in homes where the TV is on less often.

"Watching TV is far inferior to playing with toys, being read to or playing with adults or talking with parents," said Dr. Henry Shapiro, chairman of developmental and behavior pediatrics at the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Watching TV without a parent is a junk experience, especially for young children."

The report found that 27 percent of 4- to 6-year-olds use a computer each day, spending an average of one hour at the keyboard.

Among kids in that age group, the report said half have played video games and one-quarter play several times a week or more. In a typical day, 24 percent of boys played video games compared with 8 percent of girls.

Despite the heavy media exposure, the report found that reading continues to be a regular part of many children's lives. Almost 80 percent of those 6 and under read or are read to every day. Still, the report said, children spend only 49 minutes on average with books per day compared with 2 hours and 22 minutes in front of a TV or computer screen.

The report found that parents have a largely positive view about TV and computers - 72 percent say computers mostly help in children's learning and 43 percent felt that way about television. Twenty-seven percent said TV mostly hurts kids' learning and 21 percent said it doesn't have much effect one way or another.

* How much TV do you watch a day? What about your kids? When and why do you turn it off?

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